Monday, November 23, 2009

Story Up at Quick Fiction!

My story "Spelling," is currently being featured on the homepage of Quick Fiction, and will appear in print in their 16th issue. It has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Check it out, and the quality shorts published by this snazzy journal! Click here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Book News, with Occasional Ranting

First News Tidbit: Colum McCann has been declared the National Book Award winner for fiction this year. I'd never heard of him, although scrolling through his publication credits, I admit that I should have. I'm more excited about a few of the runner-ups: Jayne Anne Phillips' Lark & Termite; American Salvage, by Bonnie Jo Campbell; and In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, by Daniyal Mueenuddin.

Phillips is a provocative, lyrical writer, as evidenced by her early collection, Black Tickets, which I found alternately frustrating and thrilling. Buzz on the current novel is quite laudatory. As for Campbell, I know little, but I am happy the jury chose to make a nod towards a short story collection, and one from a small press, no less. That doesn't seem to happen often. Finally, Mueenuddin lives on a farm in Pakistan and apparently also writes lovely short stories. Yay discovering new voices! More books to add to my towering "to-read" list!

As for the nonfiction winners, I have only one question: why do the choices always have to be so "safe"? Never any lyric essays, experimental memoirs, collage pieces, daring reportage, etc. Just pieces about famous people and cultures and time periods we've already heard about a lot. Okay, so maybe I'm being unfair (probably). I just rarely skim over a list of the finalists for the nonfiction prize and think, "Wow! I can't wait to read that!" Admittedly, I don't read a great deal of nonfiction, full stop. Cards on the table.

Second News Tidbit (and rant): I really hate Martin Amis. His writing is masturbatory, self-congratulatory, dullingly long-winded, and totally misogynist. Further reminding me of why I dislike him and his litany of "-ory" faults, here he is, discussing his newest novel in The Guardian's Review of Books and why it might "upset the feminists." Apparently, Amis is of the camp that women, much like Icarus and his waxen wings, have been burned by the freedoms of the sexual revolution. His sister, he claims, was "used up" by her liberation, succumbing to an early death...I guess, because having a lot of sex is akin to being an overdriven car or something. "Not even the Taliban could have protected her," he opines. Yeah, not even the Taliban could have stopped her from leaving her home, doused her face with acid should she have tried to attend school, or reigned with terror in a campaign to limit her personal freedoms. Wait...

As my friend (and eminently intelligent reader) Elizabeth pointed out, when would you ever see such a sentiment reversed? There is a well-documented link between the rates of extremism and violence in nations where women are routinely silenced and kept from public life, for example. And yet, no one truly talks of infringing on male freedom in these countries and keeping men in their homes, where, ostensibly, they would be less of a threat to others. Indeed, such a suggestion would be ridiculous and offensive. On the other hand, if a woman encounters problems and misjudgments in her life, it is indeed her freedoms that are to blame -- better to stay in the kitchen than risk the possible pitfalls of sexual liberation. What this kind of hypocrisy underlines is that women and men are judged as individuals to differing degrees. Men who suck at life? Well, that's just one guy. Women who suck at life? Well, that's just because she represents all women, and all women have been led down a dangerous path since the advent of feminism.

In the same breath, Amis insists that he is a feminist, and in fact, would love to see women ruling the world. First order of business when I become High Queen of the World? Condescending to Martin Amis. Let's see how he likes it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Food Poem the Second

The holidays make me silly. And hungry.

I Yam What I Yam

Let not this tuft
of scruffy stuff
obscure the gold within --
that starchy, mellow

For though I be a humble
I give:
a joy,
a boon,
a happy tongue.

(photo credit:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Miscalculation of the Day

This morning I touched a discarded throat lozenge that was sitting on the window ledge of my bus because it looked like a polished stone or pearlescent button. Thence: sticky, contaminated fingers. Yuck. Should have thought that one through.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bloops From the Blogosphere

I've been following some of my favorite female political writers' responses to the insidious Stupak/Pitts rider on the healthcare bill that passed last week. There are innumerable reasons why I get really angry and worked up over it, but I think it best to defer to those who have already expressed my sentiments, and expressed them very eloquently - Katha Pollitt, writing for The Nation and the lovely bloggers, Kate Harding especially, writing at Salon's Broadsheet.

If you, too, are looking for a place to channel your outrage, these might be some good places to start. And if reading should spur you to action, consider joining the e-mail action alert networks of NARAL or The National Women's Law Center.

On a happier/more hilarious note, here is Sarah Haskins being...hilarious.

Petite Mort

To conclude a fairly art-soaked week, last night I attended Pacific Northwest Ballet's Director's Choice with my roommate. I've been so impressed and moved by the two productions I've seen at the PNB thus far and may very well invest in season tickets next year.

My two favorites of the evening were a world premiere of "The Seasons," an allegorical ballet in one-act, and Petite Mort. The real standout was Petite Mort, however, choreographed by Jiri Kylian and set to Mozart. The stark, scarcely-clothed dancers looked so vulnerable, pale, and uniform and as they danced in male-female pairs, the choreography demonstrated the ingenious ways that two bodies can be coupled, while at the same time reminding the viewer of the control and violence of these couplings, latent in every geometrical shape and gesture. Erotic and frightening, all at the same time. Explicitly treating the subject of violence and death, the six male dancers began the ballet with an elaborate foil-play, and in a surprise visual gag that I LOVED, six of the female dancers revealed that the great gowns they appeared to be wearing were nothing more than wheeled props. From behind these vast arks of feminine decorum, the real women behind them revealed their smaller, stripped bodies, for which the dresses were merely frames - a cultural trousseau of sorts. What a wonderful and playful visual script.

(p.s. This photo is from the PNB website, copyright Chris Bennion.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Stranger Celebration

Last night some friends and I attended the Stranger's Genius Awards party. The whole Moore Theatre was open, and party attendees could wander into any nook and cranny they chose. We found the backstage dressing rooms and stood in the top row of the balcony and I got scolded for dangling a leg over the ledge of a private side box (complete with creepy dark and cobwebby corner). This greatly pleased the side of me that likes old churches and abandoned houses and high-up caves in the wilderness. A bit of urban spelunking. And the coatcheck attendant helped me put on my coat at the end! "Wow, you really leaned into that," he said. Yes, sir. It's not every day a gentleman (paid or unpaid) helps me on with my coat. Two thumbs up.

Friday, November 13, 2009

'Til Death Do Us Part

" Is it a luxury to enjoy tomorrow's heirlooms today?

Genius design doesn't fall out of fashion. Fabulous is always in style. So love these treasures now and pass them on later. They're meant to be part of your life FOREVER."

This is part of Nordstrom's current advertising campaign for handbags and jewelry and other boring stuff. I flipped through a catalog that arrived at my work, and then reached this tagline. FOREVER, eh?

Pick out your open-casket accoutrements now! Be part of the brand that will litigate your will. Put on the necklace that whispers, ever-so-softly: "You can pry this out of my cold, dead hand."

Creepy, but it only gets more so with the next brand invocation:

"Is it a luxury to choose only what you love?

You know it when you see it: that perfect be-all, end-all piece that instantly feels like an extension of yourself - and gives you a secret thrill every time you wear it. It becomes your signature, your CONSTANT COMPANION."

Yep. Your CONSTANT COMPANION (by the way, these majuscules are all Nordstrom's, not mine).

Carry the bag that declares: I bought this stalker for $500. Cuddle your bracelet. Wear this coat around until it knows all your peccadilloes and sweat trickles and body crevices. Maybe wash it sometimes...

...but only if you can bear to take it off.

So, obviously it's old news that brands try to identify with women and convince them that they must own certain things in order to define themselves through the act of self-presentation. Things we buy are so us as to be an "extension"of us. How many "must-own" and "must-buys" flood the marketplace every day? I remember being much younger and believing that owning a little black dress was quintessential to sophisticated womanhood. Naturally, I was being urged to purchase said dress.

This specific ad, however, just seems so ridiculously over-the-top, what with all its creepy soulmate/graveyard lingo. The design of the catalog features fifties-style mannequins lounging-- red-lipped--in opulent jewelry, and I'm sure this throw-back to a previous fashion era is intentional: it calls to mind heirlooms we have ourselves inherited from the women of our family. Women pass on china and jewelry and doll collections, or at least they do in my family. That's part of our generational train of connection.

Doesn't it seem weird, however, to be urged to buy things that will make pretty gifts to our daughters when we are dead? Or to choose a product that's so "us," it has to be worn constantly (at least until the secret thrill is

If you look at the picture above, a bag provides the only covering for the model.

My brand, my identity.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Take Two

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to check out Not From Around Here: A Series of Unlikelihoods at the Rendezvous Jewelbox Theatre (a venue I am beginning to associate with lively reading parties). It was a project by a local arts collective called The Heroes, many of whom I know personally. I loved this reading, primarily because it was about collaboration: an exploration of memory map-making set to movement; a lyric collage piece haunted by the cello; a series of eerily soulless modern apartment complexes flashing in contrast to the personal story contained therein. Oh, and there was a rap. And it was awesome. Anyway, kudos to these artists, literary and otherwise, for finding ways to create contextual performances that are as entertaining as they are meditative on the chosen subject of place.

Here is my friend Carrie reading her piece, "Vagaries":

Not From Around Here - Vagaries by Carrie A. Purcell from Bond Huberman on Vimeo.


Here is a silly poem I wrote about beets last week. They are gorgeous. Who knew? I have mainly only eaten the pickled variety before, and am all aflutter with how they dye the water and your hands...and everything. Oh, and speaking of food, donate to your local food bank for the holidays!


Beet It

Oh, beet,


brother of chard,

sister of mangelwurzel.

May you dye our fingers ruby,

may you jewel the water boiled.

You smell of sweetness,


And you’ll be eaten,



So, that was Part Two of this great adventure.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Here begins my great adventure in blogging. It may also end here; I'm not sure yet.